Published Jul 01, 2005For the first time in history, a critic needs a critic; I have exactly no idea what to make of the random plunge into perversity called Ma mere and need someone to explain it to me.
I know there's a young man (Louis Garrel) who returns from school to find his mother (Isabelle Huppert) separating from his father - the father dies, the son mourns and the mom shrugs. When son discovers mom's stash of porn and dildos, and mom consequently introduces him to her world of sex and swinging, things get a great deal more interesting, especially when gorgeous blonde sadist Hansi (Emma de Caunes) happens on the scene. But after close to two hours of bonking and bad excuses, it's up in the air as to what we simple folk are supposed to get out of it.
That it's based on a Georges Bataille novel should give me a clue, but what Christophe Honore does with that source is profoundly opaque in intent; though he shrewdly frames the action in the new French realist style, thus defusing it of mindless sensationalism, he also fails to give any interpretation that would provoke greater thoughts than "that looks uncomfortable." True, he's often very clever in the way he evades cheesy eroticism, but if you're going to detach us from the sexual act you'd better have something more to say other than the shoulder-shrug on offer here.
One can marvel at the creative and baroque ways the characters construct their sexuality (and how Huppert breaks various child protection laws), but the total lack of artistic intervention leaves you trapped in a room full of very enthusiastic people who speak a foreign and impenetrable language. I need another critic, or maybe a shrink. (Mongrel Media)